This article was originally published on Neocha and is republished with permission.
Constellations and clouds billow across the canvas in dense, inky dreamscapes. The figures in these scenes appear with their eyes closed, perhaps lost in a reverie about their current and past lives. Combining traditional Chinese drawing techniques with a strong dose of surrealism, these works are the result of the Dalian artist. Jì Qiong 继琼Reflections on the past and the present.
When she was a child, Ji’s parents often took her to Taoist temples. Memories of her scroll paintings seen through the haze of incense smoke left a deep impression on her and instilled in her a fascination for traditional Chinese art. At age five, she began studying ink wash painting, and the pages of her sketchbook were quickly filled with paintings of clouds, rivers, and mountains in gradients of black. “Scenery like that makes my heart soar,” Ella Ji says. “In my work, I am drawn to wide views; I feel that they can cross the limits of space, as if the subtle changes of time give them an eternal presence”.
Throughout his studies, Ji tried several different styles, but ink painting always had a special appeal. “With a brush, you can get endless variations by changing the pressure, and that gives me versatility and freedom.”
Since graduating from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2017, Ji has created works of art for the music, publishing, film, and television industries. These large, striking, otherworldly compositions are a far cry from her everyday life, in which she seeks inspiration on solitary evening walks or sunset visits to the shore, plugging in her headphones and letting her thoughts roam free. The swirling beauty of his style perhaps owes something to his seaside upbringing: the boundless ocean and whistling wind have subtly shaped his art. “I want my works to feel soft, whimsical,” she says.
Traditional Chinese art stresses the importance of yijing, or creative principle. For Ji, this comes from the people and things he encounters in his daily life, transformed by his imagination, such as the tai chi master who radiates light against the darkness, or the feast on the cover. of guzzalbum of Walking in a boundless dream, with its Southeast Asian motifs. In the winter of 2017, on a walk in Beijing’s Houhai Lake, the sight of her reflection in the water in the moonlight set her to work on a series depicting people and mythical beings looking at each other. As in Lhama Latso, the sacred lake in Tibet that is said to show people’s past, present, and future lives, the images are like reincarnations that reflect the inner state of the characters.
At the end of 2018, Ji traveled to Tibet to study thank you art, and although she found Lhamo Latso less mystical than expected, she was captivated by the natural and human surroundings. “It is a place full of mystery, and every time I see the outlines of its landscape under the stars and the moon, I hold it in my memory and save it to use as inspiration for future creations,” she says. “There are also many impressive temples in Tibet with fantastic murals within their walls. My Tibetan friends are incredibly creative people with a poetic outlook on life. Their ways of thinking have helped me broaden my own mind and that, in turn, has given me new perspectives on my art.”
The mindfulness and attentiveness with which Ji approaches his art is rare. More than a method of painting, what he retains is a certain artistic charm, an interest in exploring inner realms. From learning from tai chi masters on Wudang Mountain to studying thangka art in Tibet, he believes that safeguarding traditions requires a deep understanding of them. “History moves at its own pace, and the decline of traditions is inevitable,” she says. “But our generation has a responsibility to carry the torch.”